Karlheinz Stockhausen - Kontakte

Kontakte is Stockhausens classic work for Electronic sounds, piano and percussion. The electronic sounds were originally recorded on their own and in this version are layered over the top of the piano and percussion, here provided by long-term Cage collaborator David Tudor (On Piano) and Christoph Caskel (Percussion). This recording was made in 1960. It is quite remarkable to hear just how fresh and radical Kontakte sounds after over 40 years. The crystal clear recording removes any possibility of it sounding dated due to production values.

The composition itself spilt up into two parts showcases Stockhausens exploration of tonal colour and sound metamorphosis and of his concept of “Moment form”. Moment form being a theory cantered around building compositions where there is no sense of climax or of a build in tension. In Kontakte every moment can be a climax, a heightening or dramatisation of the sound. That being said however Stockhausen did compose Kontakte with the intention of making it a continuous metamorphosis where a lightening of the sound is encountered.

Sombre noises at the beginning and light ethereal sounds at the end. All this theory combined produces a work that is always exhilarating and constantly interesting. The huge range of tones and texture quite remarkable. The metamorphosis being seen throughout the piece as piano strikes burst seamlessly into electronically treated percussive hits, and where sweeping electronic drones morph into juddering metallic percussion. This work ranks along side Stockhausens best electronic works like Hymnen and the classic Gesang der juenglinge, and is still influencing electronic and acoustic composers five decades after it’s realisation.